Council planning bungle payout ‘not reasonable’

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Councillors have been instructed to look again at a compensation offer to a developer at the centre of a long-running legal wrangle over a housing estate.

South Holland District Council had offered £50,000 to Nestwood Homes after accepting an Ombudsman’s report accusing it of maladministration over a planning application dating back to 2008.

But a new Ombudsman’s report suggests the sum is not reasonable and that the council has allowed financial considerations to override other more important considerations.

The saga dates back to 2008 when the district council ordered Nestwood Homes to pull down four new houses and three garages on a new development at Fleet Hargate after neighbours complained the development was built at a higher ground level than it should have been.

Nestwood Homes appealed and the planning inspectorate ruled in its favour.

The Ombudsman suggested compensation of £260,00 – made up of £214,053 plus interest for Nestwood’s costs and charges arising from the maladministration, £25,000 for loss of opportunity to achieve high sales proceeds and £25,000 to the director in respect of the stress, strain and damage to his reputation.

In July last year councillors agreed to accept the Ombudsman’s report and offer a sincere apology to Nestwoods and its director for the maladministration and loss suffered, but said because of financial pressures it would offer just £50,000, including interest.

The latest Ombudsman’s report reads: “The council does not appear to have asked itself the right questions in considering the Ombudsman’s report – namely whether, given the nature of the maladministration and the injustice caused, the amount of the recommended payment was fair and reasonable.”

Councillors will consider the report at the full council meeting in May.